Maybe you think that brownies are the last thing you need in January. But maybe you are wrong.
In October, I had the good fortune to go to a little town in Connecticut to celebrate my favorite TV show. I saw many wonderful people and had a great time, despite the cold incessant rain. Bone chilling rain. All. Weekend. Long.
Needless to say, soup was definitely on the mind.
Gabrielle Hamilton’s 2011 is a funny, occasionally dark, look at her life and how she came to open Prune, the successful New York restaurant. She grew up with a French mother and an American father.
While my mother is Italian, I can connect deeply with the inherent sense of “other.” Like Hamilton, I have always reveled in my “otherness,” emphasizing my Italian heritage.I enjoy pronouncing things as authentically as possible and didn’t grow up with traditional American snacks and desserts.
Hamilton married an Italian doctor and returns annually to his family’s villa in Puglia. My family is from much further north, near the border with Switzerland, and we certainly don’t have a villa. But like hers, our country house is crumbling slowly. Whenever my family would go home to Italy, we always stayed at my grandparents house where everything stays the same. I can understand her desire to get out, to see more of the country, to change things. Feelings I expect my father, the American, feels. His grasp of Italian has never been strong and while he is beloved by my Italian relations, I’m sure he feels the desire to get out and adventure.
My mother and I (and now fortunately, my husband) lack that instinct. To sit in the kitchen together, go to the market and the bakery everyday, that is enough. I have been spoilt with other opportunities to travel around the country and am more than content to spend my days sitting in my grandparents’ dining room, listening to old stories and cooking dishes from our past.
Hamilton manages to blend her many experiences into her cooking with a skill that I hope to someday acquire. For now I will content myself with trying to get to her restaurant and try the dishes, now that I know the stories behind them.
Available from Random House, $11.99
A couple of years ago, I finally discovered Nigel Slater.
He had been around but I’d never really paid attention to him, more focused on Simon Hopkinson or Jamie Oliver. So, when Netflix suggested I watch Toast, I was intrigued. I found the story engaging and charming. This seemed like a man who talked about food the same way I wished I could. I promptly went out and bought four of his books.
Those who know of my Anglophilia won’t be surprised that amongst the titles I selected was Eating for England: The Delights and Eccentricities of the British at Table. I have at least three cookbooks which focus specifically on cooking in the British Isles. This tongue-in-cheek volume looks at the British and their relationship with food.
Nigel Slater is certainly a man after my heart, or stomach. He understands the intricacies and delights of eating a Toblerone. He is on Team Rice Pudding over Team Tapioca. He loves tea time and sweets and holidays. While he will write several very similar blurbs about the same idea, the books still manages to be both charming and witty.
Slater understands that sweets mark important occasions, whether they be good or bad. It reminds me of my own cooking, especially of late. Cooking for comfort. 2016 has been a long year and I am ready for it to wrap up. I plan to spend the rest of he year doing things I enjoy. Reading books because they amuse me, not because I have to. Cooking and baking what I enjoy, not because I am watching calories and judging myself. Spending time with people I like, doing things I like. Because isn’t life too short for anything else?
Available from Harper Perennial, $14.95
This post may seem a bit rambling but bear with me and you will be rewarded with cake.
It was summer. I was in elementary school, I think. I sat on the beach, like I did most summers, with two of my friends. Similarly pale, freckled girls, we shared much more than a desperate need to reapply sunscreen on an hourly basis. We shared a love of reading which some might call voracious. I distinctly remember getting in trouble in second grade for reading during class on multiple occasions.
This was the summer of Harry Potter. The first three books must have just come out. I’m not sure how they ended up in my hands but I flew through them. Over the next few years, I would attend midnight book and movie releases and spend afternoons reading through Harry’s latest adventures. So how, my enthusiasm for Harry dropped off as he got more popular.
Lemon bars are a big hit in this household and at my work. But for a more tropical vibe, and a more elegant feel, I like a lime tart. With a coconut shortbread crust, it is like eating a little piece of heaven. This was made for the birthday of a very lovely lady and I think it is an excellent way to ring in another year of friendship!